We now live almost next door to an allotment site, which is one of the nicest possible things to have nearby. I still fantasise about having an allotment, and have put my name on the waiting list, but the fact that it takes about five years to get one doesn't worry me too much. Because I realise just how much commitment and hard work is required to make the most of one, and I'm not sure I'm quite ready yet. Plus, I'd want to grow masses of tulips and flowers for picking, and I wonder how many would be nicked. So, in the meantime, I wander down to the allotments thinking of the gruff but kind Mr Scowcroft in the brilliant Josie Smith books by Magdalen Nabb which I read to Tom, Alice and Phoebe who were unaware that I often chose the ones which mentioned seeds, soil, gardening and growing things.
The allotments are almost completely hidden from the road and houses; they are surrounded by trees and have an old conduit running alongside, so feel quite separate from the rest of Cambridge. There's a nice walk along the stream which allows you to skirt the allotments and admire all that is going on. The fruit and veg, the different methods of cultivation, the mix of annuals and perennials, patterns and colours, and always all sorts of clever DIY and recycling and making-do. Every so often there's a chair or two strategically placed to get the best view - because allotments really are ongoing works of art which deserve appreciation.
Having them so close to us means I can watch them change with the seasons, imagine what I would grown when (and how little digging I could get away with), and simply enjoy the feeling of continuity, diversity and authenticity which all allotments seem to embody. While I wait to see whether I am ready for my own few poles of earth, I have a little collection of allotment-inspired art in the house which I have built up over the years (fabric pictures, book illustration, Tom's work, my own machine embroideries) which are there to sustain the dream. I've also discovered the wonderful allotment series by Clare Curtis available from Penfold Press. May Day was a birthday present and if I get one print per year for the next three years, that could see me through to my own allotment and tulips galore.
May Day Clare Curtis